What is the most rational evidence, if there is any, of the existence of God?a

In answer to Quora question "What is the most rational evidence, if there is any, of the existence of God?"

Thanks for the A2A David. I am coming late to this party, it appears, since there are already 100+ answers. Usually I like to read through what has already been posted to see if I can add anything new. Alas, there's just too much here for me to do that! However, I find this an interesting topic, so I will take a crack at it. :-)

First we should define some terms - or at least explore them a bit. In order to for this question to have maximum utility, we need to know what is "rational," what is "evidence" and what is "God." For depending on how we frame our language and the question itself, we can end up with a lot of different answers.

For example: Do we mean "rational" in a concrete sequential way, where the vocabulary and syntax of our discourse is limited to rigidly systematized relationships (such as mathematics, computer coding, etc.)? Do we want "evidence" in a strict empiricist sense, confining our evaluation to observations that can be independently replicated and validated by any reasonably competent researcher, using metrics and instruments that are widely accepted in the scientific community? And do we intend "God" to mean an independent, conscious being with the power to create the Universe and everything in it...? Well, if we insist on these definitions, we might be able to address one or two of these requirements in a given argument...maybe...but I think it likely impossible to meet all three.

And this creates a problem in itself, because we've made a classic error in logic: we've framed things so narrowly that it impossible to satisfy all of the criteria. Whether this comes from an overzealousness regarding the scientific method, or a belief bias of some kind, or a lack of experience exploring this particular a topic...who can say? But the result will always be the same IMO: we will limit the quality of any argument so much that it can be easily dismissed.

So what's to be done? Well here's a thought experiment to consider. Imagine you and I are members of two tribes, and that I speak a language that you don't speak - in fact, no one else from your tribe speaks my language either. Others of my tribe speak it, and you can observe me interacting with them in what seems like real communication. But the language itself is just nonsense to you. Okay then, how can I prove to you that my language is actually a language, and not just some made up silliness? Well, one way to do this would be to ask me to ask someone from my tribe, in my language, to go do some detailed physical sequence of actions. If you can then observe that person fulfilling your "translated" request, then you have confirmation that my language is probably real! But what if you ask me to ask them about more personal or subjective things, like what their favorite food might be, or where they've traveled? Well, you can't ever know - not really - whether what I relay back to you is actually what they said, or just something I made up.

Taking this one step further, what if you ask me to ask them about God? What if they babble a long string of excited words you don't understand in response to my asking them, and I turn to you and say, "Well, they actually had dinner with God last night, and God apparently doesn't like lentils." Perhaps you believe I misunderstood your question, so you try repeatedly to nail down the conception of "God" so that you are sure our understanding agrees, and to confirm that my other tribe member comprehends your definition. And this goes on for...I dunno...a few hours, at the end of which you still aren't confident we are all talking about the same thing, because the answers you receive make no sense to you. The idea that "God" is flatulent, or has excellent taste in wine, or likes to sing bawdy songs when drunk, doesn't align with your preconceived notion of what "God" is supposed to be. So...well...you remain incredulous, and perhaps suspicious that I'm just pulling your leg.

And I think this story hints at the nature of the disconnect when trying to explore any mystical, esoteric or spiritual topics on Quora. To paraphrase Rumi: you can't parse spirit with logic; they just aren't the same language. Oh sure, lots of people have tried to close the gap between an ineffable *aha, *intuitive insights and (seemingly) rational philosophical constructs...it's a time-honored Western tradition. But IMO it consistently falls short. As an example, spend a year or so working through all of Hegel's writing on "spirit," summarize your conclusions about his conceptions, and then compare those conclusions to the writings of others about what Hegel means. In my experience, reading a few lines of Hafez will provide more cogent insight into the nature of spiritual love, for example, than a thousand dissertations on the topic. Again, it's about being able to speak the same language - and to speak about the same shared experiences within cultural contexts and operating assumptions that are at least similar in nature.

To put a finer point on this: what if "God" doesn't speak "rational?" What if the only meaningful conversation you can have with spirit is grounded in subjectively felt experience or intuitive gnosis? If that is true, then we might translate the question "What is the most rational evidence, if there is any, of the existence of God?" into spirit-speak as "What type of cotton candy can you melt with your eyes and eat with your heart?"

Now, just in case you think I am being flippant, let me assure you: my confidence in certain spiritual realities easily and readily harmonizes with my rational mind, and I see absolutely no contradictions there. And if I were put on the spot, I would probably answer the OP's question with one word: "Agape." But that might not be satisfactory to someone from a different tribe, who does not speak the language of spirit, and for whom such declarations sound like nonsense. In reality, however, it is simply a variation of the Hard Problem, where instead of consciousness attempting to understand itself, it is spirit attempting to prove and/or interpret its own existence.

My 2 cents.

Comment from Kasey Warner: "Thanks for a great answer, especially as to the semantics. I believe in a spiritual God and have come to an extremely simplistic personal position upon which I'd enjoy your comment if you see fit, in line with the answer you just gave.

In short, I see that we live in a 3 or 4 dimensional (again, a semantics problem whether time is a dimension) world. My God said He was not of this world; by nature, He is of another dimension (interestingly, science is beginning to realize "other" dimensions may well exist) and chooses whether, when, where, and under what conditions He and His dimension will intersect with one or more of our dimensions, thereby allowing our direct experience of Him and affecting our layer beliefs. Limited by the dimensions in our world, of which He is not, we are then incapable of proving His existence in another dimension. It is a matter of belief. I am not sure of your position on God, but wonder whether you see your recognition of "spirit" as an extradimensional matter.

Thanks in advance."

My response to Casey: Interestingly physics is a hobby of mine. I'm not a physicist, and I don't pretend to comprehend mathematics at that level, but I follow developments, discussions and various theories with interest. When a number of writers, physicists and mystics began to focus on what they perceived to be intersects between quantum theory and mysticism years back, I was all ears and avidly absorbed as much as I could. There is some interesting speculation there - particularly in work exploring correlations between very old Hindu concepts and quantum mechanics - but, ultimately, I was disappointed. Why? Because I feel it is a distraction. The way I believe we should engage spiritual realities is not through mathematical proofs or philosophical rationalizations, but through our heart's promptings and our spiritual intuitions. For me it is similar to falling in love: can we prove to ourselves or someone else that we are shaken to our very core with how we feel, or is the feeling itself sufficient justification and validation? When I say "I love you" to someone I care deeply about, should I be required to prove that this is true? In most spiritual traditions, the evidence of faith is love-in-action; the skillful engagement in service to others with compassionate affection. In a sense, then, the greatest "recognition of spirit" is in the quality of empathy and compassion with which we see ourselves and others, and the wisdom with which we conduct those relationships. Are there other dimensions of existence than those we have discovered to date? I'm certain there are. Will science increasingly recognize and explore them over time? Very probably. Is this the most fruitful avenue to spiritual experience and understanding? In my opinion, it is not.

My 2 cents.

Comment from Abhinaya Mary Koshy: "So you believe in God, then?"

My response to Abhinaya: Thanks for asking, but "belief" has very little to do with how I feel about spiritual matters. I think having an atheistic clinical psychologist as a father made me both skeptical and cynical about anything otherworldly. That said, a lifetime of intense challenges, profound experiences, exposure to different philosophies and faith traditions, meditative discipline, recurring insights and life-changing gnosis has led me to conclude (sometimes tentatively, but persistently) that I do have a spiritual dimension, and that there is spiritual knowledge, whether I choose to recognize these or not, and whether I choose to adopt some traditional label for them or not. For me, spiritual perception-cognition is as real to me as any other of my senses. I strongly suspect that science will catch up with this fact some day - likely using more neutral and clinical language - and it won't be the debate it seems to be now. But, at the same time, my cultivation of spiritual perception-cognition has helped me realize that religious institutions are often the greatest antagonists of authentic spirituality. So when someone asks "Do you believe in God?" in an online discussion, I of course wonder what, exactly, they are describing with that term, and am perpetually nervous about getting bogged down in someone else's version of reality. On the other hand, I have interacted with people of many different faiths who completely "get" my experiences and insights simply because they have been there too; and whether this is just a comforting mass-delusion isn't really relevant to the prosocial consequences and moral maturation it evokes. Well, perhaps it is relevant for some, but not for me. But the concept of "God" in an online forum is so context-dependent as to be an almost useless semantic container (without days of back-and-forth). In any case, to fully appreciate my perspective, you would probably have to read a good number of my books and articles - but that's not a fair expectation. Nevertheless, that's the only way you'll arrive at a definitive answer to your question. :-0


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